How ‘Smokey and the Bandit II’ Tackled Its Star’s Fading Career

Smokey and the Bandit II will never be confused with a great movie, but it has two things going for it: Burt Reynolds‘ inexhaustible charm, and the fact that it manages to turn a run-of-the-mill script into a remarkably self-aware meditation on the decline of Reynolds’ stardom.

Released on Aug. 15, 1980, the movie continues the adventures of Bo “The Bandit” Darville, introduced in Smokey and the Bandit, which made more money in 1977 than every movie except Star Wars. The original film came to life as a plot by Hal Needham, a Hollywood stuntman who wanted to break into directing with a B-movie about bootleggers transporting a load of Coors beer for a pair of wealthy Texans.

When Needham’s friend Reynolds – then one of the highest-paid…

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